It's the little things that really get us worked up: a weird discharge, a spot of blood, a wet pair of underwear, or an annoying itch that just won't go away. These little things create big worries for a lot of mothers, especially since their causes and symptoms vary greatly.
To find out if your discharge during pregnancy is normal, explore all of the possible causes below.
Nothing is scarier than bleeding when we're not supposed to. Countless women have a little spotting in their first trimester, after sex or a pelvic exam, or late in pregnancy. Most of the time, it's not a problem, and usually happens because of implantation bleeding (the fertilized egg imbeds into the uterine lining), cervical irritation, or for no reason at all.
Spotting later in pregnancy is usually related to having extra blood volume and circulating hormones that make it easy to break tiny blood vessels in the cervix. Late pregnancy spotting is sometimes a sign that labor is on its way–but it could also indicate a more serious condition like placenta abruption. Whenever you have spotting, let your midwife or doctor know and then do your best to not worry.
Could wet underwear indicate your water is breaking? Possibly, but the culprit is most likely urine–especially if you leak only occasionally, such as when you cough, sneeze, or have a good belly laugh. Leaking urine is normal during pregnancy, and it occurs because of the pressure of the growing uterus on the bladder. Kegel exercises—contracting and releasing the muscles around the vagina—help some women control their bladders. You also can perform "prophylactic voiding"—going to the bathroom before you have the actual sensation of needing to go. Whatever you do, don't stop drinking lots of water in an attempt to avoid the problem.
If you felt a big gush, and liquid is running down your leg or dribbles constantly in fits and spurts, let your practitioner know immediately. It could be amniotic fluid (your "bag of waters"), which should be clear but can also be brown, green, pink-tinged or yellow. Unlike with urine, this leakage doesn't happen only sporadically; if your membranes are ruptured, you usually continue to leak fluid.
"Some women have an increase in their vaginal discharge during pregnancy, and some don't have an increase at all," says Karen Nordahl, M.D., co- founder of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fit to Deliver International and a Fit Pregnancy advisory board member. Discharge during pregnancy is usually normal if its thick, sticky, and looks a lot like mucus. The vagina is working overtime, making liquid to keep the cervix moist, sealed, and healthy. But if your discharge is a weird color, smells bad, or makes your vagina itchy or irritated, see your doctor or midwife. You could have an infection.
If you experience discharge during late pregnancy that looks like boogers, you might be losing your mucus plug. Sometimes it comes out in one blob, but often it comes out in bits and pieces. This could indicate you’re going into labor (but it’s not a guarantee).
Yeast live on your body and in your vagina all the time, but pregnancy creates the perfect conditions for yeast to breed. This could lead to a yeast infection, characterized by yellow or white discharge during pregnancy that’s chunky, thick, or resembles cottage cheese. Other symptoms include itching, redness, and soreness in the vaginal region; some women also experience pain during intercourse and burning when they urinate. Consult your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter vaginal creams or suppositories and, if deemed necessary, to rule out bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted disease. Probiotics may also help; try Udo's Choice Super 8 Hi-Potency Probiotic. You can also take a stand against yeast by dialing down the sugar content of your diet (yeast love sugar) and making sure you change your underwear frequently.
Bacterial vaginosis, an infection caused by an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina. It's sometimes asymptomatic, but it can produce a fishy-smelling discharge while pregnant. The discharge is most noticeable after sex, and itching or burning may accompany it. Left untreated, it can cause pregnancy complications. "Bacterial vaginosis starts out as a vaginal infection, but it can sometimes ascend into the uterus and cause premature rupture of the membranes and preterm birth," says April Sarvis, M.D., an OB-GYN in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. If you suspect bacterial vaginosis, see your doctor right away. Prescription medications can clear up symptoms without endangering the fetus and decrease the likelihood of preterm labor.
Yellow discharge during pregnancy sometimes signals gonorrhea, and foamy yellow or green discharge during pregnancy may indicate trichomoniasis ("trich"). What’s more, discharge with a slight odor may be a side effect of chlamydia. These three infections can cause painful intercourse or urination. Having a sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor and a uterine infection after delivery. Some organisms that cause STDs can pass through the placenta and affect the fetus; others can be transmitted to the baby during delivery. If you think you have an STD, get tested by your doctor. Many STDs can be safely treated with antibiotics.